The Reunion of Odysseus and Penelope in the Odyssey

Written by on August 16th, 2013. Subject: Literature. Filed in Epic Poetry, about Homer Greek Odyssey

|||Homer, and Robert Fitzgerald. The Odyssey. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998.|||

Penelope Questions Odysseus

Stranger, my looks
my face, my carriage, were soon lost or faded
When the Akhaians crossed the sea to Troy
Odysseus my lord among the rest.
If he returned, if he were here to care for me
I might be happily renowned!
But grief instead heaven sent me–years of pain.
Sons of the noblest families on the islands,
Doulíkhion, Samê, wooded Zakýnthos,
with native Ithakans, are here to court me,
against my wish; and they consume this house.
Can I give proper heed to guest or suppliant
or herald on the realm’s affairs?
How could I?
wasted with longing for Odysseus, while here
they press for marriage. 19.148-62

There is perhaps nothing in the Odyssey which has sustained such varied criticism as the recognition scenes between Penelope and Odysseus. Peter von der Mühll called the interplay in book 19 “among the most tasteless passages in Greek poetry.”1 Likewise Woodhouse discounts the passage as a roughshod reassembling of “secondhand parts.”2 On the other hand, more recent critics have praised the passage for its intense psychological aspect, some insisting that the dialog is a secret communication between Penelope and Odysseus on how to kill the suitors3 while others claim that Penelope recognizes Odysseus through a serious of subconscious intuitions.4 Others such as Chris Emlyn-Jones5 and Peter Gainsford6 claim that the scene suffers from creative over-interpretation and that the dialog simply partakes in a more general poetic structure common to recognition scenes, which serves as “a device whereby the poet unifies his plot and increases dramatic tension by foreshadowing climatic events.”7

That there is something true about each of these is perhaps practically apparent: there is repetition of lines which seem to detract from the quality of the dialog, Penelope’s actions do purposefully aid the beggar, the dialog is deeply psychological, and the recognition sequence is arranged according to a general paradigm of recognition scenes. But it is just too simple to say that Odysseus was aided by Penelope consciously or otherwise, and whatever bearing the poetic structure and repetition has on our discussion is analytic and not interpretive in nature–we learn nothing of the why of the situation.

In some simple way all these scholarly arguments assume that Penelope wants Odysseus back and that Odysseus wants Penelope too. Such a crass statement will understandably offend what is the sentiment of love in the western conscious–the passionate falling-in-love paradigm of marriage. Too easily we assume that love is not marred by time and that once entangled a lover will never wish to escape. Our experiences say otherwise: relationships are inevitably destroyed by neglect, and duty, not passion, seems the characteristic of marital longevity. We must always keep in mind that Odysseus is ten years late to his own homecoming and that Penelope has before her continually the means to recreate her life with whatever suitor she might choose. The question before each of them as they move toward their inevitable reunion is why—why has Odysseus been gone from Penelope and Ithaca for so long, and why has Penelope refused either to deny a new marriage or to submit to another husband?

The simple answer is that Odysseus was forced by fate to stay from Ithica and that Penelope remained loyal and patiently awaited him, but this is only half satisfactory. Odysseus had, after all, sought adventure after Troy, not home.8 And Penelope, however prudent and understanding, may still prove untrustworthy.9 In some fundamental way Penelope and Odysseus mistrust each other and must come to terms with their fear of betrayal. Odysseus fears that Penelope has been, or will be, disloyal and will choose some suitor over him. But more importantly he fears that Penelope has become independent and has no desire to reunite herself under him. Penelope on the other hand fears that the Odysseus who has returned is not the same man who left twenty years ago; she fears that he will be unable to reestablish order and to command respect in his house. More than this, however, Penelope fears being abandoned once more for glory and name-winning. And so, Odysseus sets out to question Penelope not just to test her loyalty but to determine whether she would give up her queenly independence and submit again to him, and likewise Penelope, testing Odysseus in turn, wishes to determine not only whether Odysseus is capable of ruling his house, but also to make sure he won’t abandon her and his homeland again. Such assurances, as we might call them, are the foundation of trust on which the reestablishment of their dutiful relationship stands.

It is unreasonable to expect that Odysseus or Penelope would accept the other without first questioning and testing them. If all Odysseus required was proof of loyalty then surely his trial of Penelope is unnecessary. Odysseus had been told previously by trustworthy sources that Penelope is loyal and waiting for him, first by his own mother in the underworld and again by Athena “who assures him that she remains steadfast in her grief.”10 And as the dialog in book 19 progresses Odysseus’ deceit seems “to lose its justification.”11 After all, Penelope has just recounted to her husband how she longs for him and it is obvious even to Odysseus that she spurns the suitors. On the other hand, any suggestion that Penelope suspects or even recognizes that the beggar is Odysseus, but wishes simply for him to prove that he is the same Odysseus whose guile and cleverness dominates those around him, and whose intelligence naturally rules over men, is defeated by her sincere reluctance to reconcile with Odysseus in book 23. There Odysseus has proven himself; he has killed the suitors and he has restored order to his house. He is the man she had yearned for these last twenty years. And if she does not run to him then, she either really and truly has no desire to reconcile or she is only half satisfied with his proof and desires something more from him.

A Closer Look at Book 19

But let us turn now to the text and see, if we can, exactly where these questions arise, how they are answered, and in what way they are satisfactory. Let us start our inquiry not at the beginning of book 19, but earlier, with the revealing of Odysseus to Telemachus. Odysseus recounts to Telemachus the general strategy of how he will slay the suitors. He tells Telemachus that he is to hide all the weapons inside and that at the right time they will slay them together. In preparation for this Odysseus urges Telemachus not to tell anyone of his true identity so that “οἶοι σύ τ᾽ ἐγώ τε γυναικῶν γνώομεν ἰθύν: καί κέ τεο δμώων ἀνδρῶν ἔτι πειρηθεῖμεν, ἠμὲν ὅπου τις νῶϊ τίει καὶ δείδιε θυμῷ, ἠδ᾽ ὅτις οὐκ ἀλέγει, σὲ δ᾽ ἀτιμᾷ τοῖον ἐόντα. (alone you and I can come to know the purpose of the women: and also so we would test that of the slave men, whether some of them esteem us and fear us in their heart, and also those who do not respect us and dishonor you being with them.).” It is curious that Telemachus does not question Odysseus’ decision to hide himself from Penelope or from Laertes, the two most assuredly loyal (so far as Telemachus is concerned) to Odysseus. Instead he suggests that Odysseus spend less time testing the farmhands and servants and to focus his time on testing the women, “ἀλλ᾽ ἦ τοί σε γυναῖκας ἐγὼ δεδάασθαι ἄνωγα αἵ τέ σ᾽ ἀτιμάζουσι καὶ αἳ νηλείτιδές εἰσιν: (but indeed I urge you to learn about the women, whether they dishonor you or are without guilt),” which we come to find means Penelope especially12. This shocking sentiment is vindicated within the framework of the story through the subsequent discovery of the plot by the suitors to kill Telemachus and the feeble attempt Penelope makes at ending it; it would seem that she would endure the insolence of the suitors even at the risk of losing her own son, but we are left unsure why. And as she goes to the upper chamber “κλαῖεν ἔπειτ᾽ Ὀδυσῆα, φίλον πόσιν (to cry then over Odysseus, her dear husband),” even then she makes no attempt to warn Telemachus of what might be his impending death. I do not wish to suggest that Penelope had on her mind any negative intention toward her son. Considering the Odyssey as a whole, that would be absurd. What I do wish to suggest is that Penelope endures the outrage in part because the suitors are for her a means of escape from Odysseus’ house, even if revolting, should she find that Odysseus is dead or not at all who he once was, or perhaps even if he lives but does not wish to return

This idea that Penelope fears that Odysseus does not wish to return home seems to be her principle reason for caution when dealing with the beggar. That Penelope would suspect that the beggar was related in some way to Odysseus’ return, even before the conversation seems likely. After all, her son has just return from a voyage on which he sought news of his estranged father, whether he still lives or has died. Soon after he returns, Eumaeus the swineherd reappears13, whom Telemachus had just recently sent to Penelope to tell of his return, now accompanied by a mysterious and unknown companion. A shrewd Penelope would question why the swineherd had returned, especially since he would not have business at the house, nor would it be common for him to journey to the palace. Penelope would also find it odd that Telemachus would so keenly acknowledge and give bread to this stranger without first asking his business in the house or who he was. And if Penelope had not been made aware of all of this happening in her hall, she would have learned of it after the violent outburst between Antinous to beggar Odysseus. It is reasonable that Penelope summons the beggar to question him with these curiosities in mind. She does after all state in a fit of anger that the purpose of the conversation with the beggar is too learn of Odysseus, “πάντα γὰρ εὖ ᾔδησθ᾽, ἐπεὶ ἐξ ἐμεῦ ἔκλυες αὐτῆς / ὡς τὸν ξεῖνον ἔμελλον ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἐμοῖσιν / ἀμφὶ πόσει εἴρεσθαι, ἐπεὶ πυκινῶς ἀκάχημαι. (for you had known all of this, since you heard from me myself that I intended to ask this stranger in my halls about my husband)”14–which is a curious question to ask of a beggar brought to court by a mere slave, unless, of course, she has suspicions. On the other hand, Odysseus also seems are of this, since he knows that she will “ἡ δέ μ᾽ ὀδυρομένη εἰρήσεται ἀμφὶς ἕκαστα (indeed, wailing she will inquire about each thing from me)15”

The next curious fact which is not adequately explained by a mere test in loyalty and action is the tears that Penelope sheds on hearing the beggar recount his fabulous offer of hospitality to Odysseus. That the purpose of this recounting is to “establish his genuine knowledge of Odysseus”16 is probable and fits with the analysis of the formal structure of recognition scenes. We find, after all, Laertes acting in kind when Odysseus establishes genuine knowledge with him. However, the assertion that “such vivid detail” is what drives Penelope to “passionate weeping”17 is weak. The beggar does not recount a recent story, or tell of a living and healthy Odysseus soon to come home. Instead he tells a story which he claims is twenty years old; a story from long before when Penelope would have last had news of Odysseus alive.18 Such a story especially in light of the increasing frequency of prophecies concerning Odysseus return, and the curious and sudden return of Telemachus, along with the even more curious presence of the beggar makes us question the real cause of those tears. The dialog implicitly leaves the question of recognition up in the air when it first points out that the words Odysseus speaks, though they seem like the truth, are obvious lies, “ἴσκε ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγων ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα. (and recounting everything he made the lies appear like the truth).”19 Our suspicion that Penelope does not weep merely because of the closeness of her husbands memory seems satisfied in the small but meaningful phrase that she wept over “ἑὸν ἄνδρα παρήμενον (the man who was seated next to her).” We are left to wonder whether these tears are for or because of the beggar, and whether, if they are for the beggar, they are tears because she suspects his true identity, but also fears the reason he would come to her not as himself, but in disguise, even when they are alone together and there seems no harm in revealing himself.20

After recovering from her tears Penelope declares that now she will test the stranger to see whether he speaks truly about entertaining Odysseus. That such a genuine outburst of emotion should come about before she becomes so skeptical seems out of place. And that she is so specific about how the beggar is to prove the truth of his story is in its own way curious. Other recognitions scenes ask simply for “ἀριφραδές σῆμά (a clear sign)” so that “πεποίθω (I would know it)” and not for anything specific. There is no real reason for her to disbelieve the beggars story, nor does its validity seem to increase in any way the likely hood of Odysseus’ return. She does not seem to gain anything by analyzing the beggars story unless she suspects that he is part of some plot surrounding Odysseus return,21 in which case Penelope is here asking for more than a clear sign that the beggar has met Odysseus.

But what Odysseus gives to Penelope is not just a proof of identity, but a proof of loyalty. He describes how he was clothed when he set sail for Troy. He was clothed in a “χλαῖναν πορφυρέην οὔλην (a wooly purple cloak)” but we learn that he has many purple cloaks given by many people; ‘Aethon’ recounts how even he gave Odysseus a purple cloak and that this is no sure sign, since Odysseus received many gifts and “πολλοῖσιν ἔσκε φίλος (Odysseus was dear to many)”. That ‘Aethon’ does not describe his looks and build should immediately be suspicious. Instead, he describes his brooch of which the same general criticism, “οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ἢ τάδε ἕστο περὶ χροῒ οἴκοθ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς, / ἦ τις ἑταίρων δῶκε θοῆς ἐπὶ νηὸς ἰόντι (I do not know whether Odysseus had these things things on his skin at home or whether someone of his comrades gave it to him going upon the his swift ship)” holds, but which nevertheless is sure 22. She is asking for concrete evidence. Not a ἀριφραδές σῆμά but a ἔμπεδα σῆμά23; not so that she might know if he truly met Odysseus, but so that she might determine if he is loyal.

After this sign is revealed Penelope weeps again. This causes the beggar Odysseus to tell a different story. From 19.270 to 308 ‘Aethon’ weaves another story in which he has just heard from another man, king Pheidon” that Odysseus is on his way home to retake his house. The telling of this account is rather honest: it is more or less what happened to Odysseus. What is important about the story is twofold: first, it provides an ἀπολογία for why Odysseus has been absent for ten years longer than expects and second he swears an oath first on “Ζεὺς, θεῶν ὕπατος καὶ ἄριστος (Zeus the highest and best of the gods” and then on “ἱστίη Ὀδυσῆος ἀμύμονος (the house of noble Odysseus).” Odysseus wishes Penelope to know that his adventuring was not abandonment. Instead, “οἱ τό γε κέρδιον εἴσατο θυμῷ, / χρήματ᾽ ἀγυρτάζειν πολλὴν ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἰόντι (it seemed the better thing to him in his heart to beg riches going to all the lands.” That ‘Aethon’ would swear his story on the hearth of Odysseus is curious. Even granting that he has no hearth himself on which to swear, and this house of Odysseus from whom he gains guest-right is his only sustenance, even still the gesture is presumptuous. Oaths are a serious thing and they are made on that which is dear to you. Only Odysseus, and not some beggar, would have a right to swear upon his house.

What is also curious about the exchange is that it seems breaks the mold of the formal structure of the other recognition scenes. Penelope has passed the test of loyalty and Odysseus should now either reveal himself or simply foretell of his return. What happens instead is that Odysseus relates a long explanatory history of where he was and what his intentions are, and even how he will return. Here ‘Aethon’ hints outright of his true identity: he says that Odysseus has gone to seek counsel about whether to return to Ithaca “ἀμφαδὸν ἦε κρυφηδόν (publicly or secretly.” And if we do not conclude that the second speech by ‘Aethon’ is a revealing then it is an odd and out of place foretelling. It is doubly out of place because the question that naturally would arise is why did Aethon not open with this first, more relevant story?24

It is at this point that I believe Penelope sufficiently suspects the identity of the beggar. The washing scene is introduced to poetically assert this recognition from the point of view of the servant so that the reader is satisfied with the interchange: Odysseus has tested his loyal wife and won at least one friend, his old nurse.25 Penelope recanting her obvious hope for Odysseus return and stating instead that she knows he will not return is for me an indirect confession of her recognition of the beggars true identity. Odd as that may sound, she is hopeful and cautious elsewhere of Odysseus return, but only after this confrontation forward does she say explicitly (except in subterfuge to the suitors) that all hope is lost. The purpose of that comment is for Penelope to test Odysseus. Penelope fears that Odysseus might care more for adventure and his name than for his wife and house. When Odysseus stands before her in disguise it is a partial fulfillment of that fear: here is Odysseus himself, but he makes no move to claim what is his. This, I think, is the sub-text of the denial, and why cunning Odysseus exclaims reveals his past, offers a defense, and explains that he will return. I take as further proof of this the fact that Penelope does not wonder or even question him further after this exchange, but instead sets about fulfilling her duties as a host.

After the interlude of the recognition of Odysseus by Eurykleia, and a description of the events surrounding Odysseus’ scar, Penelope returns to speak further with Odysseus. The tone of the conversation shifts and Penelope recounts to Odysseus what she has been up to and why she has not made an end of her dealings with the suitors, either by dismissing them all or by marrying one. She also tells of how Telemachus’ wishes her to leave Odysseus’ house for the sake of his wealth.26 What she says is that during the day she “[τέρπει] ὀδυρομένη, γοόωσα,” but that at night “κεῖμαι ἐνὶ λέκτρῳ, πυκιναὶ δέ μοι ἀμφ᾽ ἀδινὸν κῆρ / ὀξεῖαι μελεδῶνες ὀδυρομένην ἐρέθουσιν. (I lie in my bed and thick sharp sufferings stir up my lamenting tight heart).” The analogy which follows–that Aedon as a nightingale sings sweetly for the coming spring, although in mourning for the death of her son whom she killed–illustrates the predicament which Penelope finds herself: that she welcomes the suitors even as they signify the end of Odysseus whom she mourns. And Penelope herself admits directly her indecision when, at the end of the simile, she says “ὣς καὶ ἐμοὶ δίχα θυμὸς ὀρώρεται ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα, / ἠὲ μένω παρὰ παιδὶ καὶ ἔμπεδα πάντα φυλάσσω, / κτῆσιν ἐμήν, δμῶάς τε καὶ ὑψερεφὲς μέγα δῶμα, εὐνήν τ᾽ αἰδομένη πόσιος δήμοιό τε φῆμιν, ἦ ἤδη ἅμ᾽ ἕπωμαι Ἀχαιῶν ὅς τις ἄριστος / μνᾶται ἐνὶ μεγάροισι, πορὼν ἀπερείσια ἕδνα. (so even my heart is aroused in two here and there, whether I should wait beside my son and protect all his things, my possessions, the slaves and this high vaulted great house, respecting the bed of my husband and the voice of the people or already to follow whichever of the Achaeans courts me the best in these halls, giving an immeasurable dowry.”

The dream that Penelope asks Odysseus to interpret is both an explanation and an admonition. Penelope uses the dream as a further vehicle to explain her behavior these past twenty years but also to urge Odysseus to action. The geese are in one sense the suitors, but in a more general and applicable sense they are the freedom and independence which Penelope has enjoyed these twenty years. Such independence is difficult to give up, even if it’s effects are undesirable27; The eagle is both an omen of Odysseus return and Odysseus himself; That he kills her geese is Odysseus’ test for Penelope–can she live without her independence; and that the eagle speaks to her in a mortal voice is an indication that she herself knows that Odysseus has come and claims her again. Her awaking (within the dream) and seeing still the geese before her is an admonition to Odysseus that he has not earned, yet, her obedience, since he claims to kill the suitors only in omens and promises. Such an interpretation would in part explain the odd sentiment Penelope feels toward the geese–that “σφιν ἰαίνομαι εἰσορόωσα (watching [them] warmed me)” and why she “οἴκτρ᾽ ὀλοφυρομένην ὅ μοι αἰετὸς ἔκτανε χῆνας (wail[ed] pitiably since the eagle had killed [her] geese)”–and it would go a long way in explaining the tangential problem both of why she speaks next of the gates of horn and ivory and why she suggests the archery contest.28 Likewise, Odysseus affirmation of the eagles interpretation of the dream is an acceptance of that general situation and an affirmation that Penelope can only prove her obedience to him if she gives him the opportunity to kill the suitors.

And so we come to passage of the gates of horn and ivory. Penelope uses the allegory to tell Odysseus of her fear of abandonment and to declare to him the terms of her obedience. Penelope will only submit to someone who is worthy of submission. For Penelope omens and promises are fleeting words without force unless they find fulfillment. Only by action–only by revealing himself and taking up his house–can Odysseus earn the respect and obedience of his wife. When Penelope says to Odysseus that she does not think that the dream which she has recounted, the same revealing which ‘Aethon‘ just gave to her of Odysseus return, is from the gate of polished horn and therefore fleeting and untrue dream, she is speaking truly (Odysseus has come but hasn’t revealed himself) but she is also urging Odysseus to reveal himself. That Penelope will submit to Odysseus should he reveal himself is made clear by the clarity and forcefulness of her decision to follow whichever of the suitors should win the contest; such a contest presumably puts Odysseus on the same level as the suitors, so far as his right to win Penelope–but that Odysseus is the better man Penelope knows since he used to easily accomplished the feat. What is important, especially for Odysseus, is not that he is given the means to defeat the suitors, but that his wife has made a firm decision regarding marriage and her independence: she has chosen to be married and to submit herself to her husband, whether to him or to another.

The dialog concerning the contest sets up the condition for Odysseus to win back Penelope in more than one way. He wins his house back from the “μνηστῆρας ἀγαυούς (the illustrious suitors” but he also wins the obedience of his wife. Likewise, Penelope, on the other hand, gains the dedication of a dutiful husband and the protection of an able lord.

Book 23 becomes more interesting in light of this interpretation. We are not so surprised at Penelope’s exclamation to Eurykleia since it expresses both relief and a confession of her previous indecision. Penelope does not admonish Eurykleia because she does not believe Odysseus has killed the suitors but because Eurykleia has presumed that Penelope had desired the suitors to be killed. We remember her sentiments about the geese in her discussion with Odysseus in book 19 and we understand that whatever her desire for Odysseus she will still lament the loss of her geese. Her reference to her sound sleep is a subtle reaffirmation to herself that she has awoken from her dream-state where she was independent and needed not submit to Odysseus or any other man; that it was sound and the sweetest since Odysseus has left is a recognition of relief at having made her decision to submit to whoever should win the contest–a submission and obedience she once owed to Odysseus. She is, of course, overjoyed that it is Odysseus who has won, but she is aware that she would need to submit to the victor regardless. The statement which, I think, causes Penelope “ἀπὸ λέκτροιο [θρώσκειν] (to leap from the bed)” and “βλεφάρων ἀπὸ δάκρυον ἧκεν (tears pour forth from her eyes )” is the statement that Telemachus “μιν πάλαι ᾔδεεν ἔνδον ἐόντα, / ἀλλὰ σαοφροσύνῃσι νοήματα πατρὸς ἔκευθεν, / ὄφρ᾽ ἀνδρῶν τίσαιτο βίην ὑπερηνορεόντων (had known long before that he had come here, but he hid the design of his father with discretion until he could punish the violence of the overbearing men).” This is because it proves indirectly Odysseus intention to fulfill what he had revealed to Penelope, that he is coming home for good.

The final interchange between Odysseus and Penelope is also now not quite so mysterious. Far from being a moment of recognition, it is a moment of mutual reaffirmation of their implied promises–that Penelope will submit and that Odysseus will remain. Although it is framed in terms of a test, of which Penelope wishes for her ἀριφραδές σῆμά, we find out through Odysseus angry response that this is not so. We remember that Odysseus has been given clear tokens of Penelope’s fidelity, first by his mother, then by Athena, and finally by Penelope herself when he tested her. Odysseus, we remember, begins the conversation and directs it toward the topic of the marriage bed. He wishes to point out that he had once made for her an physical representation of their rooted promises in marriage. Penelope answers and obediently demands that Odysseus will be accomplished, but not before chiding him. The point is clearly and fairly made: Odysseus promises not to abandon his marriage and his house, but this is a promise he has made before and sealed with a physical symbol. The bed, unless Odysseus does remain, is movable. To clarify, Penelope does not frame the test around whether the man before her knows, as only Odysseus would know, the secrets of the bed. This is clear from the immediate dominion which Penelope does not contest when Odysseus orders the servants to wash him and to array the hall as if the suitors were still alive. Instead, Penelope presses Odysseus so that he would admit and reaffirm why he built the bridal hall: his commitment to his house and their marriage. Interwoven into this test is a response to Odysseus’ own firm question about whether Penelope will obey him: she does not hesitate to order her servants to obey Odysseus. Odysseus responds angrily because he is offended that his wife would dismiss his loyalty so simply and so soon; he responds “τίς δέ μοι ἄλλοσε θῆκε λέχος; (but who has put my bed elsewhere?)” Odysseus recounts the building of the bed not to show that it could not be moved physically, for even a simple man could move the bed.29 The bed as a symbol, however, cannot be moved, and it is this symbolic bed that Odysseus means when he describes with what care and diligence it was built.

At this point Penelope and Odysseus reconcile. They have both gained from each other what was necessary to reform their relationship. Odysseus gained from Penelope an assurance of her loyalty and the act of her obedience. Penelope has gained from Odysseus the reestablishment of his lordly power and a token of his duty to her. The process by which this happens is at the same time through an open recognition and a decisive plan and through a subtle, deeply psychological sub-text. And finally, the recognition scene between Odysseus and Penelope now seems more clearly a part of the general recognition structure which unifies the plot and increases the dramatic tension.30

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  1. Harsh, Philip Whaley. 1950. “Penelope and Odysseus in Odyssey XIX.” The American Journal of Philology 71 (1) (January 1): 1–21. p 1. 

  2. ibid 

  3. Haller, Benjamin. 2009. “The Gates of Horn and Ivory in Odyssey 19: Penelope’s Call for Deeds, Not Words.” Classical Philology 104 (4) (January 1): 397–417. 

  4. Russo, Joseph. 1982. “Interview and Aftermath: Dream, Fantasy, and Intuition in Odyssey 19 and 20.” The American Journal of Philology 103 (1) (January 1): 4–18. 

  5. Emlyn-Jones, Chris. 1984. “The Reunion of Penelope and Odysseus.” Second Series 31 (1) (January 1): 1–18. 

  6. Gainsford, Peter. 2003. “Formal Analysis of Recognition Scenes in the ‘Odyssey’.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 123 IS - (January 1): 41–59. 

  7. Reunion of Penelope and Odysseus, p. 5. 

  8. Odyssey, 9.39-42 “Ἰλιόθεν με φέρων ἄνεμος Κικόνεσσι πέλασσεν,/Ἰσμάρῳ. ἔνθα δ᾽ ἐγὼ πόλιν ἔπραθον, ὤλεσα δ᾽ αὐτούς:/ἐκ πόλιος δ᾽ ἀλόχους καὶ κτήματα πολλὰ λαβόντες/δασσάμεθ᾽ (bearing me from Ilium the winds carried me near to Kikones, and there I sacked the city, and killed the men: and the wives of the citizens and taking all the riches we divided it among ourselves.)” 

  9. Odyssey 11.445 and 55. Agamemnon first says that Penelope is λίην γὰρ πινυτή τε καὶ εὖ φρεσὶ μήδεα οἶδε but that also that Odysseus should be cautious ἐπεὶ οὐκέτι πιστὰ γυναιξίν. We also learn from Telemachus that Penelope will not refuse a new marriage either, but lets the suitors tarry in hope. ἡ δ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἀρνεῖται στυγερὸν γάμον οὔτε τελευτὴν / ποιῆσαι δύναται: (and indeed she does not deny the hateful marriage nor is she able to end it). This he says not to the stranger Odysseus, but to the swineherd Eumaeus, whom we are told before is well aware of the suitors in the halls. The comment, then, seems more an explanation for why the courtship continues: because Penelope has no mind to end it. 

  10. The Reunion of Penelope and Odysseus, p. 1. 

  11. ibid 

  12. We find that Penelope was included in the ‘women’ when Odysseus tells Telemachus “ὄφρα κ᾽ ἔτι δμῳὰς καὶ μητέρα σὴν ἐριθίζω (so that I may further provoke the maids and your mother)” 

  13. We must keep in mind that this is the same swineherd whom Telemachus had previously sent to tell his mother of his return to Ithica from Pylos. That Eumaeus would again come to the house of Odysseus, accompanying not Telemachus whom he had just entertained, but some unknown, is at least odd. 

  14. Odyssey 19.93-95 

  15. Odyssey, 19.56 

  16. Interview and Aftermath, p. 7. 

  17. ibid 

  18. We are told the fame of those who fell at Troy has reached all the lands. In fact, Penelope criticizes the bard for recounting such information in song, which in turn gets her a criticism from Telemachus on the grounds that Odysseus isn’t the only man who perished in Troy. 

  19. Odyssey, 19.203 

  20. A plausible situation could have that Odysseus comes to the halls and begs for bread disguised as a beggar, but when he is given the opportunity to speak with Penelope alone, in her chambers, that he would reveal himself then, his plot, and his intention. We see this general tactic reassuringly in plays and other literature which utilize disguise as part of the plot. 

  21. While I think it is more likely that Penelope suspects the beggar is Odysseus himself, it is possible that she suspects that he is some other man who, along with Telemachus, plots Odysseus’ return. 

  22. This is a compound suspicion. First we should be suspicious that Penelope asks about his raiment, which is easily cast off and changed, and not his stature and looks. Second, we should be suspicious of ‘Aethon’ who so simply dismisses all parts of Odysseus raiment except the brooch. Only Odysseus would know, we might suppose, that the brooch was given by Penelope, and therefore is a “ἀριφραδές σῆμά”. 

  23. Odyssey 19.250 “σήματ᾽ ἀναγνούσῃ τά οἱ ἔμπεδα πέφραδ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς. (she knew the lasting signs which Odysseus had shown her)” 

  24. Penelope would surely wonder at this if she did not already suspect the beggar was Odysseus. 

  25. It is worth noting that Eurykleia is the only person who recognizes Odysseus without him revealing himself. This is, I think, a subtle hint that Penelope also recognizes Odysseus. 

  26. That this statement is contrary to what Telemachus actually thinks can be combated by what Telemachus says to Athena at the opening of book 1.We notice something similar to what Penelope claims: “ἡ δ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἀρνεῖται στυγερὸν γάμον οὔτε τελευτὴν / ποιῆσαι δύναται: τοὶ δὲ φθινύθουσιν ἔδοντες / οἶκον ἐμόν: τάχα δή με διαρραίσουσι καὶ αὐτόν. (but indeed she neither refuses the hateful marriage nor fulfills it: and eating they lay waste to my house for me: indeed perhaps they will destroy me and my house).” Telemachus does not wish for her mother to marry. What he wishes is for her to make an end of her deception with the suitors; and if she won’t make an end of the courtship to, for goodness sake, marry one of the suitors or else he and his house will fall to ruin. 

  27. We can be reasonably sure that Penelope resents the suitors. 

  28. Presumably, the rest of the conversation would be interpreted in much the same light as in the article “the Gates of Horn and Ivory.” That is, Penelope speaks of the gates as an introduction to a plan she wishes Odysseus to enact and Odysseus, understanding the message, acts on it. What would be different in my interpretation is that the plan is presented to Odysseus as an answer to his fundamental fear of whether Penelope would submit to him. The Dream before hand acts as a confession by Penelope. 

  29. A simple man would first try to move the bed. He would fail at this, of course, because the bed is built out of a rooted olive tree. But it would an easy thing to cut the bed from the roots and an even simpler thing then to move it. This is not the immutability of an object only a god himself could move. but the bed as a symbol cannot be moved except by a god; Odysseus’ will not leave Penelope except by the will of the gods. 

  30. I offer as further evidence to this something which is not discussed much by Gainsford: that the recognition of Odysseus is usually followed a plan for action.